Japanese man self-immolates over Abe's state funeral

STORY: Charred bush and concrete were left on a road in Japan's capital Tokyo after a 70-year-old man set himself on fire near the prime minister's office on Wednesday (September 21).

Local media said it was in an apparent protest at the government's decision to hold a state funeral for once-leader Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated earlier this year.

A letter about Abe's state funeral and the words "I strongly oppose it," was also found on the scene.

Police declined to confirm the incident, which took place on what would have been Abe's 68th birthday.

Abe, Japan's longest-serving premier who stepped down in 2020 citing ill-health, was gunned down at a campaign rally in July.

The suspected gunman believed Abe was a supporter of the controversial Unification Church, which the suspect said bankrupted his mother.

But since Abe's killing, more links have emerged between that church and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, or LDP - of which Abe was a powerful member.

Those ties, along with a growing opposition to allowing Abe a state funeral, now present a huge problem for current Prime Minister and LDP leader Fumio Kishida, whose approval rates are plummeting.

Kishida has repeatedly defended his decision to go ahead with the state funeral.

But a vast majority of voters remain unconvinced at needing to hold such an expensive ceremony.

The latest government estimates put its cost at about $12 million.

Abe's state funeral is set for next week with thousands expected to attend.